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The Great Life

Rarer than diamonds

Gemfields CEO Ian Harebottle wants to make coloured stones fashionable again

You've just announced partnerships with jewellery brands and designers in India. Why now?

We want to popularise gemstones in India which are experiencing an all-time high demand. Over the last four years, the market for gemstones has grown at 50 per cent each year. We sell 60 per cent of our stones to the East and of that, 60 per cent to India. Ninety-five per cent of what we sell comes to Jaipur for cutting and polishing. Interestingly, Kagem mine, from where we source emeralds, was earlier owned by an Indian called Rajiv Gupta.

You've said that luxury is no longer

determined by the rarity of the object.

The concept of luxury is constantly changing. Today, watches made of stainless steel and plastic handbags also fall in the category of luxury. But, in my opinion, a true luxury item is defined by its quality, the passion put into its making, its uniqueness and rarity. For example, gemstones were formed inside the earth's crust much before diamonds, and no two gemstones are the same. This makes gemstones rarer than diamonds. In addition to these attributes, ethics now delineate luxury.

The Zambian president recently said that he intends to ban the auction of Zambian emeralds outside the country. How will this impact your business?

There isn't clarity on the matter yet. Gemfields and the government has been involved in talks about the Kagem mine, and then suddenly at a press conference the minister of mines said that such a ban might be implemented. It won't affect us much as we are one of the players. We don't mind the ban as long as it is in the best interest of the country.

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